The timeframe in international politics is crucial when it comes to engagement and disengagement among countries. Over the past few months, the increased engagement in the Middle East shows peace reverberating across the Arab world after many years of war, conflict, and disengagement among regional countries. The readmission of Syria into the Arab League and its presence at the Arab League summit in Jeddah indeed has reflected a significant shift in regional dynamics. The Arab League is a regional organisation of Arab countries that aims to promote unity, cooperation, and coordination among its member states. Syria’s suspension from the Arab League in 2011 was a response to the government’s violent crackdown on protests during the Arab Spring uprisings.
The decision to readmit Syria has resulted from several changes in regional dynamics, including an impetus from leading Saudi Arabia’s internal revival of economy, culture, and society. This aim of Saudi Vision 2030 has also opened the door towards Iran with the help of China. This regional scenario, backed by the favourable timeframe discussed earlier, has started a shift in the Middle East. The decision to reengage with Syria can be associated with several interlinked factors. Those factors range from diplomatic normalisation to the influence of external actors and regional cooperation. It is worthwhile to understand the said factors before expanding on the future scenarios of the Middle East.
This enables more diplomatic contact with Syria and promotes dialogue and cooperation on issues of common concern, such as regional stability, refugee problems, and counterterrorism.
Readmitting Syria has paved the way for Arab League members to normalise diplomatic relations with the Syrian government. It could signal that some Arab states believe that the situation in Syria has stabilised sufficiently to allow the latter to reintegrate into the regional fold. However, since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started supporting the idea of settling the Syrian conflict with the Syrian government’s participation in 2018, there has been a motive to bring the Assad regime back into the Arab fold. In addition, by readmitting Syria, the Arab League would effectively acknowledge the legitimacy of the Syrian government. This would be a departure from the stance taken during the suspension when the Arab League supported the opposition forces seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Asserting that the Assad government committed serious human rights violations during the war and must be held accountable before any normalisation of relations, the United States (US) and some other Western nations, including Germany, have voiced their opposition against Syria’s re-inclusion in regional forums. Despite criticism from some quarters internationally, the readmission of Syria may be driven by pragmatic considerations, such as the desire to regain influence in Syria and shape its future.
Arab states might perceive that maintaining diplomatic and economic ties with Syria is strategically important for their interests in the region, including countering regional rivals and securing access to Syria’s resources. The move by Saudi Arabia to re-establish diplomatic ties with Syria provides insight into the country’s revised regional strategy. The current strategy of Riyadh can be summed up in three words: pragmatism, economic cooperation, and de-escalation. This combination is the ideal complement to the new Saudi strategy for Syria under Bashar Al Assad. By allowing Damascus to reenter into the Arab League, the Saudis are attempting to achieve three objectives: they want to play a role in the reconstruction of Syria, enter a political-economic environment where Iran has so far held sway, and reduce drug trafficking from Syria into the Gulf. This allows Riyadh to head the Arab consensus alongside the UAE, Bahrain, and Oman, who had earlier returned to Damascus. Only Qatar, which continues to oppose restoring diplomatic ties with Syria, holds a stance toward the Assad administration that the US will support.
This political move of Syria’s readmission can also be seen as a step toward promoting reconciliation and stability in Syria. The Arab League might believe that engaging with the Syrian government could encourage it to participate in regional efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict, facilitate the return of refugees, and contribute to regional security. Syria’s return to the Arab League is vital for regional stability and Arab unification.
However, the geopolitical ramifications of Syria’s readmission to the Arab League extend beyond the immediate neighbourhood. The Arab League’s decision to readmit Syria highlights a shift in local politics and a realignment of allies. This enables more diplomatic contact with Syria and promotes dialogue and cooperation on issues of common concern, such as regional stability, refugee problems, and counterterrorism. Traditional Arab powers now arguably have more sway over the future of the country as Syria resumes membership in the Arab League. Furthermore, the restoration of Syrian membership in the Arab League could promote greater international collaboration in resolving the Syrian issue by easing tensions between regional rivals and reducing the likelihood of proxy warfare.
For a number of factors, including humanitarian considerations, regional stability, and Arab unity, the re-admission of Syria to the Arab League was essential. The decision is a positive move for diplomacy, opening avenues for dialogue, cooperation, and a peaceful resolution to the Syrian situation. If one could sum up, the Middle East is operating in a political scenario where regional consensus is gaining sway over past conflicts.